Agreed, We Need a Different Model

A Truly Socialist One, Not Disguised Capitalism

Pedro Campos

Havana Summer 2010

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 11 — In an interview granted to the US magazine The Atlantic, Fidel Castro was quoted as saying “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

At no moment did he speak of socialism, but of the “model.”  The interpretation of this by an academic taking part in the conversation was that Fidel was referring to the high degree of State involvement in the economy.

This factor precisely characterizes “State socialism” or “real socialism,” which has failed everywhere as it maintains a concentration of ownership (but in the hands of the State) and the wage-labor form of production – a model that Lenin himself termed “state monopoly capitalism.”

This is a continuation, in a new phase, of the ideas Fidel expressed in November 2005 at the University of Havana when he spoke of the reversible character of the Revolution.

He asserted that this would be as a consequence of the actions of revolutionaries ourselves if we were unable to solve the serious existing problems of corruption and bureaucracy, which —as has been demonstrated— are in fact engendered by this statist “model” containing neo-Stalinist components.

Fidel didn’t go as far as openly defining what the new model would be for him.  Perhaps we will receive something that was lacking in his interview with the American magazine; but what have not been lacking are the opinions of communists and revolutionaries.

The debate is sometimes sharp, at moments tense, closed; nor is it between individuals under the same conditions.  Many revolutionaries and communists debate from the inside, which involves precariousness, patience and tolerance.  They risk misunderstanding while subject to crude accusations and manipulation.  All of this could have somehow contributed to Fidel reaching that conclusion.

Impending change, in one direction or another

Objectively we live in a country with a specific history.  And although its own development of economic and social relations has led many people to that same conclusion, as have their own life experiences, some have come to believe that the solution lies in private capitalism.

Havana Summer 2010

Nonetheless, others see the answer as depending on real change to the centralized State mechanisms for a true, more participative, democratic and inclusive model of socialism, and one with several forms of the organization of production.

This would be one in which the cooperative/self-management system of freely associated workers would gradually be implanted.  In this, the State would still be necessary but it would be small and concentrated in some key areas.  What is true in Cuba is that this historic leadership, which some would prefer to ignore, is the one that under our conditions today, right now, can give way to change in one direction or another.

This doesn’t deny that revolution and change are produced and truly come from below.  Some of us have been struggling for those ideas from below for decades in Cuba and, because of this, suffering more or less open repression.

Acting from below, workers have imposed a distribution of their earnings that is different from that sought by the bureaucratic State (and I’m not speaking of individuals).  They are forcing the adoption of a new model.

Acting from below, diverse political actors, politicians, including the minority opposition (assisted and financed from abroad) have imposed their presence, as have homosexuals.  Blacks and mestizos have also been struggling against persisting discrimination; while women, discriminated against within the supposed “equality of sexes,” have acted to defend their rights.

Likewise, those in support of non-violence in human relations of all types even held a public march along the central thoroughfare of 23rd Avenue in the Vedado district.  Environmentalists have created blogs and come up with public information activities; intellectuals have set up Internet and [domestic] Intranet forums, in addition to taking advantage of the few existing settings for debate to express their positions.

Rappers and many other people’s artists have cut against the grain of official institutions and restrictions and have called things by their popular names and made the ears of the bureaucrats and others burn.  All of this is to mention only some of the clearest demonstrations of actions from below, from that seething, people’s and democratic revolution that is not decreed from any office.

Critical support of the government’s actions

However —despite their sectarianism, despite their inability to accept anything that doesn’t come from their own discourse, despite the time they’ve caused us to waste, about their indecision, about their indisposition to dialogue even with revolutionaries, despite their resistance to convene a Party congress— the current leadership is moving towards bringing about necessary socializing and democratic changes in the economic and political arenas.  They cannot only count on our non-sectarian acceptance, but also our wider cooperation.

Havana Summer 2010

Our forces and I ask for all Cubans of good faith, be they within or outside the country, to support these necessary changes in the search of the Cuba of Jose Marti: “With all and for the wellbeing of all.”  We have been criticized for our critical cooperation; perhaps history will recognize that it was a correct tactic.

But no one believes that in the name of another model they will be able to maintain the old bureaucratic, autocratic and centralized State of the past and at the same time carry out superficial economic reforms that only serve to consolidate the power of a few.  Reality requires change: we will move towards socialism or barbarism.

To advance to a new form of socialism —not to mention communism, which would demand other international changes having broad popular support— there will have to be very established limits on State companies.  This movement to socialism must give freedom to self-employed labor and to cooperatives (or co-managed companies) that could begin to structure small-scale services and industry from within State-owned properties.

It must give real capacity to workers to decide on the administration and distribution of profits, to determine their relation to the surrounding community and to have the opportunity of obtaining credit and freely selling their products domestically or exporting them, without abusive controls by the State.

It will be necessary to make a new law for cooperatives, one that recognizes the principles of this system without paternalism or State control in agriculture and which extends to services and industry.  It will be necessary to allow for associations of cooperatives.  It will be necessary to clearly define the difference between cooperatives and State enterprises that are managed by the workers or by the State itself.  It will be necessary to democratically regulate the forms of foreign-owned investment so they’re not able to exploit the labor of our workers directly or have the ability to appropriate our land and natural resources.

Tasks ahead

Cuba, like no other country on the earth, is in a position to take the step to socialism.

Havana Summer 2010

But how can we do this without finally unifying our dual currency, which locks in one of the most brutal forms of exploiting workers by a State that monopolizes property and the market?

None of this will occur if it is not done by workers and all citizens, without listening to and affording participation in concrete actions to those who have been working on these issues from different positions.

Though we will not all agree totally, this will not happen without establishing a truly participative system in the mass media, without democratizing it.  Nor will it take place without clear democratic reforms made in the electoral system and in the ways representatives are designated and selected to Popular Power (representative councils or branches).

Substantive change will not proceed without restructuring the operation of these bodies and without establishing participative municipal, provincial and the national budgets, ones that are democratically approved.  (These are all issues that I have broadly discussed in other articles). Without democracy, socialism is not possible.

If the other “model” that we are looking for is not broadly participative and democratic, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist (and I’m speaking of a path and not an outline), than what we are talking about is a change that will strengthen capitalism.

This will mean a system based on the search for profit and accumulation through exploiting wage-labor, preying on nature, encouraging more foreign-owned investments, increased control by the bureaucracy, distributing the state piñata between bureaucrats, having a Central Committee full of millionaires and actions of those types.

It would be to turn socialism into a caricature with feet of clay, and to soon see the return of private capitalism, fast tracking the island’s annexation (be it real or de facto) yearned for over such a long time by the most malevolent forces of imperialism and their hatchet men of Cuban ancestry.

But then, sooner rather than later that seething underground revolution will explode, and the story will then be different…but who knows which one it will be.

11 thoughts on “Agreed, We Need a Different Model

  • Sam: You grudgingly accept that Marx did stipulate “State Socialism” in the Manifesto, but you still will not call it “State Monopoly Socialism.” Okay, then let’s call it “State Concentration Socialism.” It’s the same thing. It means, literally: “The socialist state should take over ownership of all productive property and run it as the property of the state.”

    No matter how you dress up and put lipstick on this formula, it has proved to destroy the economy and the leading socialist party state power.

    What you continue to avoid is the realization that it is the state concentration hypothesis that has been disproved by actual, historical practice. You continue to lay all the blame on the monster that this hypothesis first created.

    You simply have made a deities out of Marx and Trotsky and there is no getting through to you. History therefore will pass you by.

  • Grady-I don’t dispute that Marx says that at all. But Marx was a social instrumentalist, he saw the State as an institution like any other. But he also saw that the State sets the principles upon which society is based and operates, ie property rights, educational standards, legal protections, ect. For a Communist system to be created, State Socialism needed to be implemented.

    My dispute with you isn’t that Marx says this, it’s that Marx planned it on being an interim to coalesce all economic power into this one institution. At that point, the institution fully democratizes (which would be something which might look similar to your co-operative socialism, Marx’s criticisms of Proudhon’s economic theories aside), at which point full Communism is worked towards. Lenin thought that State Socialism would need to last longer in Russia to educate and industrialize the backwards society. Stalin took this idea and made it counter-revolutionary. Trotsky did believe in Lenin’s state monopoly, but he believed critically in increasing the democratic power of the state until it ceases to be “the state”

  • Sam: Yes, and this is only your–and your tendency’s–view of things. You sincerely believe this view to be correct, but this does not make it correct.

    I’ve told you and others over and over again, pointing to work, chapter and page number where Marx stipulates in black and white that the socialist usually would and should concentrate all the instruments of production in the hands of the state. Neither you nor any other Trotskyist or other tendency of Marxism has answered me. Not one of you. Not even once.

    Look, if you continue to sidestep the Manifesto text, and continue to pretend that the state monopolization of the instruments of production was only the evil genius of Stalin, then what more can I say. You’ll either deal with the reality that full state monopoly socialism is the heart of Marxism, or you will not.

    I don’t mean to try and dance on your head, but it’s painful to see you and so many others unwilling to recognize and discuss the relevant text of communism’s classic, founding document.

  • Grady-State-socialism is only a phase of Marxist thought. Marx saw State socialism as necessary to counter the power of the bourgeoise and build the conditions for democratic socialism, which leads to Communism. Communism, ie economic rule by the community, was always the end goal of the Communist system. It’s merely that Stalin took State Socialism in an entirely radical direction. Under Stalin, there was no perpetual revolution, merely an ever-expanding and unaccountable bureaucracy.

    Anyways, I think the point is that there were a plurality of interpretations to Marx’s thought, and Stalin’s only succeeded by bloodying the opposition to his own line of thought (ie, the assassination of Trotsky, etc)

  • Pedro: As usual you are brilliant. You continue however to believe that Marxism and state monopoly socialism are opposites. As long as you do not understand who foisted the state monopolization of the instruments of production on the world socialist movement, you will be unable to lay before the Cuban people and the PCC an effective reform program to save the revolution.

    The opposite form of socialism from the “state monopoly” form can descriptively be called “state participatory” socialism. In this form the socialist state would retain part (40-49%?) ownership of most industry and commerce. The remaining, controlling part would be owned by the employee associates according to the Mondragon cooperative corporation model.

    May I encourage you to really think about this comparison: state monopoly socialism versus state participatory socialism.

  • Alberto, you say: “Free-up all small enterprises and convert them into private or cooperative ventures as was successfully applied in the GDR.” I didn’t know that this sort of thing had been implemented in the GDR! Sounds exciting . . . Can you tell us a bit more, very succinctly?

    Most of us do not know that Engels authored the first two drafts of the Communist Manifesto in 1847. He also re-named his developing work a Communist Manifesto before bringing it to Marx for further collaborative development. (Google it all to confirm.)

    Although Engels developed the structure of the Manifesto and worked out most of the wording before Marx added his part, he never mentioned that the “state” should own all the instruments of production. This part was apparently the contribution of Marx, who idealized the state in accordance with his Hegelian predilections.

    And so, although it may chagrin some readers, the “statist” system of state monopoly socialist is the direct product of Karl Marx’s amendment the Engelian Communist Manifesto. Every Marxist should check this out before laying the blame on Stalin.

    State monopoly socialism is not contrary to Marxism; it is Marxism.

    What Cuba needs is a candid, objective re-examination of Marxism and the whole early history of socialism, and a pin-pointing of the theoretical origin of the state monopoly socialism formula.

  • Another point I want to stress is that the idea of allowing limited ‘free enterprise’ in Cuba is really all about the freeing-up of local resources, to be better allocated **for the use of cubans themselves — locally, and on-island**. It is NOT in the interests of Cuba or of socialist society that such resources ever be exported (at least not initially — and for a long time, AFAIC (But by then it should have become a purely *socialist* issue, no..?)

    It is the _Cuban_ economy which needs fixing on an immediate — and local — basis. Limited ‘free enterprise’, so-called, should have *nothing* to do with matters of i.e. large-scale production, or import/export or foreign exchange issues, etc. THAT way lies capitalist restoration. So beware those who are today counseling such paths for the Revolution. Remember the course of the CCCP.

  • I’m against simply allowing ‘free agents’ to be able to export what they produce out of Cuba, willy-nilly — to give one example of the issues around rationalizing the cuban economy, by breaking the monopoly practice of the stalinist bureaucracy in favor of greater autonomy for enterprising individuals or cooperatives. If participatory democracy — a necessary precondition for real socialism — is actually implemented in Cuba, then the democratically-elected councils (formed by election from regional councils, etc.) which run the entire island would be the ones who should decide the allocation of resources outside the country for purposes of exchange. Hopefully first to ALBA, etc. allied countries, as well as those “Third World” countries in most need of these resources.

    To simply allow even limited “free enterprise” in Cuba would almost *guarantee* that these valuable social resources would NOT reach those _most_ in need of them — and would instead end up under the control and/or possession of the ‘highest bidders’…

    Just so’s we’re clear on matters like this.

  • Also of note, that stalinist system is clearly self-negating; by claiming democracy while alienating the decision making class from the majority of the population, the decision-makers (ie businessmen in the US/Europe, the bureaucrats in the USSR) are liable to create the same sort of contradictions in Capitalism simply by failing to understand the needs of the people. At this point, a one-party Socialist authoritarianism is liable to collapse under pressure from nationalists and other rightwing ideologies.

  • I agree, the current Cuban model is based on a strange misinterpretation of Marx’s model, that of Stalinist anit-Imperialism. This system relies on extended state control, and concentrates power in the hands of bureaucrats and state managers. As the article says, this started with Lenin’s proposal to create “state-monopoly capitalism” for the time being, but was crystallized when Stalin thought he needed to “build Russia quickly” and perpetuate that system into a long-term program. In the process, he left millions dead. He and later Russian leaders were able to argue that this system needed to be perpetuated because of the actions of the “Imperialist West” to undermine their governments. This is a fair concern, but it is too frequently used as a pretext to continue current policies that benefit those in power.

    Marx argued that Socialism was necessary to build the conditions for Communism. He didn’t argue that a Communist party should create State socialism then seek to perpetuate that system by arguing that it is “just”. He wanted a person’s labour and time to be the measure of their economic value, and he sought to negate the alienation between the worker and that which he produced. And he wanted all people to have access to the capacity to find this value from his labour, whether in the moment or at a future point in their life. On some level, this communist ideal means equitable distribution of education, health care, transport and housing, but it also means that workers become educated and engaged with the decision-making process in achieving these facts.

    The state should seek to democratize production. State-firms should be more democratically managed to reduce corruption and theft; if the managers are corrupt and mismanage the factory, it will damage the benefits of all the workers, therefore there is a collective incentive to maximize efficiency.

  • Thanks for a comprehensive analysis of Cuba’s dilema. Debating what Fidel said to Golberg or what Golberg understood, is irrelevant to the urgency of changes that the entire Cuban population is demanding.
    Every aspect included in this article, I heard recently from the mouth of educators, retired, scientists, ordinary workers, women, white, black, brown, gay, religious, non-believers, straight and gay.

    Contrary to what many say abroad, I found only a minority asking for political changes. Socio-economic reform is what our people are demanding now, without further delay. Likewise, if these urgent reforms are arbitrarily postponed, shelved or ignored, our country will be moving closer to the social implosion we fear, dread and hope never happen.

    A first step in promoting these changes and improvement in the lives of millions of people, is within reach. Free-up all small enterprises and convert them into private or cooperative ventures as was successfully applied in the GDR. With the immediate improvement of the standard of living of thousands and the reactivation of our communities, other programs can de discussed and implemented prgressively.

    Maybe the most important factor demanding an immediate implementation of a radically different mode of production, is the destructive moral effects that the present system is exerting on an entire society. Stealing from all government entities have become an acceptable norm. Family morals are seriously impacted by accepting this as a way of survival. Doctors, teachers, laboratories, repair men, processing of documents etc., are all demanding gifts or service may not be rendered.

    Purchasing airline, train or bus tickets, can be obtained easier outside of these offices or at these employees home. Appliances and other household goods are readily available outside of the store, than at the counter. Store clerks shamefully ring-up less than what you are asked to pay. Cab drivers in collusion with dispatchers, do not turn on their taximeter. Mechanics remove usable parts from cars and sell it to others not able to purchase the new part, water delivery trucks, liquid cooking gas and electrical hook-up, all require money under the table.

    How much longer can we consciously allow such social decay to continue, because of our entrenched refusal to admint and change? No one is looking for winners or loosers. Our sole interest is to see our country come out of it present socio-economic-moral morass and become what we can easily be, the most educated, socially advanced, politically correct, drug-free and security model of our hemisphere.

    This and more is doable, as soon as we decide the time has come!

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